Goneril and Regan, I cannot help but admire these two powerful characters in Shakespeare’s tragedy, King Lear. While they are cold-hearted and cruel, they go after what they want. Goneril wanted to be with Edmund so she kissed him first. This is a huge milestone for women in literature during Shakespeare’s time. Women during the 1500s are meant to be quiet and used as objects to continue the human race. Goneril and Regan threw those ideas out the window. They manipulated people, especially men, in order to get as much power as possible. However, Shakespeare is still a product of his time. He portrayed them to be crazy, wicked, nasty women all because they wanted some power. But Edmund wanted the same amount of power if not more than Goneril and Regan yet, his madness seemed more subtle.
The song by Leon Bridges titled, “River” off his album called Coming Home, is one of the most lyrically brilliant songs of the 2010’s. Bridges’ album was highly anticipated and was seen on Spotify’s Top 10 Most Viral Tracks. The song was featured on the hit television series Big Little Lies. He is typically known for his R&B/Soul music; however, he has been involved with other genres.
“River” uses a great variety of storytelling techniques including: anecdote, imagery, metaphor, and repetition to convey the poet’s journey to finding God and being baptized. The song has a positive message about relying on God and starting over.
The song begins with,
Been traveling these wide roads
For so long
My heart’s been far from you
Ten thousand miles gone
The speaker of this song has been struggling for a long time, they haven’t been their true self and they’ve made mistakes. Bridges’ uses metaphor in this first verse. The “wide roads” are the blocks that are in the way of the speaker being able to connect with God and find purpose. He/she’s whole life has been a “wide road”. The speaker continues to use metaphor by inferring that the “you” is God. They have been searching to find themselves but they are “ten thousand miles gone”. In the literal sense, the speaker is ten thousand miles away from home. In the metaphorical sense, the speaker is incredibly far away from his relationship with God and the Bible.
In verse 2 the speaker states,
Momma’s word reoccur to me
“Surrender to the good Lord
And he’ll wipe your slate clean”
Through this verse, as the reader, we understand that the speaker is either a son or a daughter that is going through the journey to find purpose in their life with God. The word “reoccur” mentions that religion may have been a part of the speaker’s childhood but they moved away from it. Leon Bridges uses an anecdote by mentioning a quote that the speaker’s mother once said. The word “surrender” implies that the speaker must give all of themselves to the Lord in order for the relationship to be fulfilling. In return, God will “wipe your slate clean”. The speaker’s mother means that the Lord will forgive you for your past sins and you may start clean. This also is referring to being baptized because your new life with God begins.
The chorus begins with,
Take me to your river
I wanna go
The speaker is now not lost traveling the “wide roads” after remembering their mother’s words. They now want a relationship with God by saying “take me”. The “your” in the chorus refers to God and the “river” represents the water that the speaker wishes to be baptized with.
Finally, in verse 3, the speaker describes,
Dip me in your smooth water
As I go in
As a man with many crimes, come up for air
As my sins flow down the Jordan
The song once again continues to refer to God and baptism. Bridges uses imagery in this verse to describe the speaker’s baptism. He starts by saying, “dip me in your smooth water”, the speaker is mentioning the aspect of baptism when the priest pours holy water over the persons’ head. This phrase says, “my sins flow down”, the speaker is mentioning that when baptised you are released of all past sins by God and can start over again. Finally, the speaker mentions the Jordan River which flows through the Middle East and is referred to in the Bible.
Overall, Leon Bridges creates an excellent story that describes the pain of being lost and the happiness in finding yourself with God.
While reading Exit West, there was some familiarity with the story. But, I could not pinpoint what it was. Until I read this, “…But approached the door, and drawing close she was struck by its darkness, its opacity, the way that it did not reveal what was on the other side, and also did not reflect what was on this side, and so felt equally like a beginning and an end” (103). Suddenly, I figured it out. The movie Monsters Inc., I couldn’t stop thinking about how the doors in the movie led to new places and new opportunities. I also compared the movie to when the militants from Nadia and Saeed’s country came to attack migrants in Vienna, I thought of the monsters trying to scare the kids. While this could be a pure conscience, I’m curious if Mohsin Hamid was inspired by the childhood classic. What are your thoughts?
Does life really matter? I continue to ask myself this question looking back on my past decisions and looking forward to my future. Throughout the college application process, I’ve questioned some of my decisions. I do not regret any of my decisions but I do think I could have calmed down a little bit. I could have spent some more time with my family or friends instead of being on my phone for hours. I could have taken a deep breath and realized that one test isn’t going to ruin my future. As individuals, we tend to make our lives more complicated than it needs to be. But yes, in a way everything in life matters.
Relationships are one of the most important values in anyone’s life. Humans are supposed to be social, as we all experienced through quarantine, being isolated from those we love such as friends and extended family can be lonely and difficult. Although constructs like money, power, and religion are all in some way made up by humans, a bond between yourself and others is unlike anything else. Social interaction is what makes life matter to me, does it for you?
For this years summer reading book I chose, When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka. The story is beautifully written and I think Nabokov would agree. Although, the story is told in three different perspectives and we never know the narrators names, Otsuka manages provide the utmost detail. The boy recalls, “It was 1942. Utah. Late summer. A city of tar-paper barracks behind a barbed-wire fence on a dusty alkaline plain high up in the desert. The wind was hot and dry and the rain rarely fell and wherever the boy looked he saw him: Daddy, Papa, Father, Oto-san” (49). Otsuka manages to captivate the reader by describing the horrible setting of a Japanese internment camp during a hot summer. Julie Otsuka also manages to capture the fear that many Japanese Americans were facing during World War II. The mother narrates, “Tomorrow she and the children would be leaving. She did not know where they were going or how long they would be gone or who would be living in their house while they were away. She knew only that tomorrow they had to go” (8-9). Once again, Otsuka gets the reader to feel empathy for the family and the hardships they will experience. Nabokov would, I believe, approve of Otsuka’s enchanting storytelling. As Nabokov states, “A major writer combines these three- storyteller, teacher, enchanter- but it is the enchanter in him that predominates and makes him a major writer” (32).
In the magnificent short story written by George Saunders the main character, Jeff, ultimately decides to kill himself. “My MobiPak™ whirred. The Darkenfloxx™ flowed. Then came the horror: worse than I’d ever imagined” (page 78). Later on in the story as Jeff is dying of intoxication, he is describing an actual escape. I believe George Saunders did this to appeal to the reader and not share the gory details of the pain Jeff is feeling. The reason why I find this so interesting is because Saunders has been extremely descriptive leading up to the main characters death. Saunders also included the description of birds as a way for the reader to believe Jeff had redeemed himself in the end by choosing to sacrifice himself instead of allowing Rachel to die. “From across the woods, as if by common accord, birds left their trees and darted upward. I joined them, flew among them, they did not recognize me as something apart from them, and I was happy so happy, because for the first time in years, and forevermore, I had not killed and never would” (page 81).